What Is A Hero

My paramedic guru, Kelly Greyson, just posted a post and as part of it he said

1. The firefighters and paramedics who responded to that scene were not heroic.

It made me think and I left a comment asking for a definition of hero.

On point #1, what is your definition of hero? If you are going to say it isn’t someone who chooses to put their life in danger to help others, then you need to define what it is. Using the logic I read in your post, soldiers wouldn’t be heros because it is their job to fight wars and die.

I wouldn’t say the people who responded to the Rep Gifford’s shoot were heros because frankly they didn’t do anything particularly dangerous. The scene was declared safe, with the shooter down, before they got there.

Now you’ve got me thinking Kelly. Dang it, I see a post coming…

So now, what is my definition of a hero.

A hero does something. You don’t become an hero sitting on your ass. You have to do something and that something has to be something most people would not want to have to do.

What a hero does is noble. Nobility. Honor. Goodness. Words we only use these days for exceptional acts that make, or attempt to make, the world a better place. You aren’t a hero to do something evil, whether you succeed or fail. You can be a hero for trying to do something good, even if you fail. When a cop gets in their patrol car it is noble. A fireman on the truck is noble. A solider in the field is noble and honorable. Though any of those could be dishonorable by doing their job poorly or unethically.

A hero makes a sacrifice. If the thing you do doesn’t cost you anything, then it can’t be heroic. So when an EMS provider goes to work and transports people to the hospital everyday, that isn’t heroic. It’s their job and the cost – of time and effort – while noble, isn’t a sacrifice because they are compensated inline with the work.

Sometimes though, when doing your job you “pay the ultimate price” and that makes your action sacrificial and heroic. So the EMS person who gets hit by a car while working a traffic accident, goes from noble to heroic because that sacrifice was more than anyone would expect of them.

You can also become heroic when you take a risk “above and beyond the call of duty” even if you don’t have to pay the ultimate price. If you go into a burning building, which could collapse at any minute, so you can get someone out, that is a heroic act, even if it is your job, because you’ve shown a willingness to sacrifice.

We do throw around the word hero too much. It used to be worse. Remember those “Real American Hero” radio ads from 2000? Then September 11th happen and those ads disappeared. Why? Because suddenly we remembered what it was to be a hero.


  1. Jobs says:

    And Heroes will never die! An hero is a well stone paved road that connect future with the past!

Comments are closed.